July 12, 2019
On November 10th, 2018, thirty community members and partners met (on one of the worst winter weather days of the year!) to share the successes and challenges of the coalition and to re-imagine the values of our collective work together. It was a amazing day full of reflection and creativity with the community voice at the centre. A Values Team was assembled to take the work that had been accomplished and to refine and expand on it.
Our Values Team members are:
A Call Out and a Call To Action – June 2020
Are all white people racist? For most of my life I would have answered no. Some were, for sure, and I thought it was pretty easy to spot who they were. I also thought I lived in a country that didn’t have the problems that other countries had with racism. I was living in my cocoon of privilege. How could I have been so blind to what was actually happening in the world and in my own backyard?
Since racism is not innate it needs to be learned and it starts at an early age for white people. Let me use myself as an example. My schools were led by white people creating curriculum and teaching us. The stories and histories that I was taught were from a colonial white perspective – that we discovered Canada, that we created a country that didn’t exist before we arrived. They tried to completely erase the thousands of years of Indigenous existence that preceded our first contact. I was intentionally not taught about The Indian Act, residential schools (or prisons or labour camps as they should be called), or the sixties scoop. Nor was I taught about Japanese Internment Camps or the Chinese head tax. I was taught a little bit about Black enslavement in the United States but nothing about enslavement in Canada.
In my everyday life I saw white politicians, police officers, prime ministers, judges, CEOs, dentists, doctors, faith leaders, nurses…. In movies and on TV the stars were all white. There was no representation of diversity except to perpetuate racist stereotypes. Our newspapers and TV newscasts were white owned, and the people preparing the news and the on-air people were white. Laws were made by white people and enforced by white people. Everything was filtered through a white lens. I was taught explicitly and implicitly that white was the normal, the pinnacle. If you weren’t white (and straight) how could you see yourself flourishing or mattering if you could literally not see yourself reflected positively in your society? How could you imagine or expect justice, equity, access to health care, or for any system to support you? You could see how racism becomes the default for white people. That doesn’t excuse racism, but you have to see it and accept it to move forward. I consider myself a recovering racist because it takes diligence, dedication, and commitment to keep dismantling racism in myself and in my community.
Reflect on your own experiences and I doubt they are radically different. This isn’t the whole story by far but hopefully you are seeing the many layers that create a racism that infects us all. Racism is the violence inflicted upon and the murder of Black people but it is more than that. It is a wide spectrum of actions and inactions, such as letting a racist comment slide or turning off the news when you have had enough. A very current example of racism is the Premier of Ontario saying that our country does not have the same ‘systemic, deep roots’ of racism like the US. This statement discounts and and attempts to erase all of the experiences and history of racism and oppression in Canada and is meant to comfort white people. It is saying ‘don’t worry, you aren’t so bad.’
So, what do we do as white people? Open your heart and mind to the ways in which you have benefited from and perpetuated racism. Then it takes dedication and commitment to learn from the voices of Black, Indigenous, and marginalized communities and unlearn all the lies that you were taught. Talk to your white friends and family. Have the difficult and uncomfortable conversations. Change cannot happen in silence. We may lose people in our lives but that is the sacrifice that we need to make. It is the very least we can do. Our lives are not on the line. But learning without action is still condoning and upholding these systems of oppression. To do nothing is to turn your back on other humans, murder and genocide. We don’t want to live in a world where some people live in fear every single day. We want to live in a world where love and compassion drive our actions. A world where we see and celebrate difference and don’t criminalize, pathologize, and commodify it. This is possible but as white people the weight and burden of change is on us. We created the system, we need to dismantle it. When confronted with racism and your own complicity don’t deflect, deny, minimize, excuse, or equivocate. Listen, learn, and do better.
We all need to be anti-racists, to actively denounce racism, call it out whenever we see it whether at work, or a backyard party and to actively dismantle racist systems that center whiteness and white lives. The time for action was always, but now is a good time to start if you haven’t yet. This is life and death.
Brendan Johnson, Executive Director
Some ways to take action are to follow, support, and donate to Black Lives Matter Guelph and/or Guelph Black Heritage Society Seek out Black-owned businesses and shop there, and spend time reading about Anti-black Racism. Do not attempt to be a white saviour, Follow the lead and direction of the BIPOC community.